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PCF Investigator Dr. Karen Knudsen To Lead American Cancer Society

April 20, 2021
Karen Knudsen

PCF congratulates Karen Knudsen, PhD, MBA in her new role as the next chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society (ACS) and its advocacy affiliate, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), starting June 1, 2021. Dr. Knudsen will be not only the first female leader of ACS, but also the first cancer researcher to head the organization.

She currently serves as executive vice president of Oncology Services and enterprise director for Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson Health in Philadelphia. Dr. Knudsen holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from the George Washington University; a PhD in biological sciences from the University of California, San Diego; and an MBA from Temple University Fox School of Business.

Dr. Knudsen’s contributions to the field of oncology are extensive. Her PCF-funded research on prostate cancer has led to high-impact results for patients and have significantly furthered our understanding of prostate cancer biology. These include discovering the gene PARP1 as a driver and therapeutic target in prostate cancer.

PARP is a protein that is involved in repairing damaged DNA. Early data that PARP could be the key to finding treatments for prostate cancer came from a PCF-funded team led by Dr. Knudsen. Their work proved that PARP is a driver of prostate cancer and that PARP inhibitors can suppress prostate tumor growth and progression. These findings ultimately led to the 2020 FDA approvals of two PARP inhibitors (olaparib and rucaparib) for patients with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer and certain DNA repair gene alterations.

Dr. Knudsen has been Principal Investigator (PI) or co-PI on 6 PCF Challenge Awards, a co-Investigator on 3 PCF Challenge Awards, and has mentored 7 PCF Young Investigators. Over the years, she has been a strong advocate for women in prostate cancer research, and was a leader in establishing the PCF Women In Science forum. “Dr. Knudsen is an incredible leader,” said Dr. Howard Soule, PCF’s Chief Science Officer. “She has made extraordinary contributions to the field of prostate cancer biology. This is an example of the importance of funding early, promising work, because years later, you see the value of the investment.”